Prior to the Virginia men’s basketball team’s game against San Francisco in Connecticut, the majority of the team’s players kneeled during the national anthem.
The same was true Tuesday at John Paul Jones Arena for the first home game of the season.
Tuesday’s action appeared slightly different, however. The Cavaliers made a point to line up in a different formation.
In “Bubbleville,” the team lined up spaced apart, likely to promote social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tuesday, the team lined up side-by-side, putting their arms on each other as some players decided to kneel while others stood.
“Obviously people are gonna say what they say, but our shirts say ‘Unity,’ we’re all unified,” Virginia redshirt senior center Jay Huff said.
Virginia wore black warm-up shirts Tuesday with the word “unity” on the front. On the bottom of their game jerseys, “unity” appears again.
After the game, a couple players shared their reasons for kneeling or standing.
“A lot of us have really strong beliefs about the situation in the country right now with the police brutality and all that,” redshirt freshman forward Kadin Shedrick said.
Shedrick was one of the players who opted to kneel Tuesday. He took a knee to protest police brutality and racial injustice in the country.
The first few games of this season represent the first time the Cavaliers have taken the court since the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others that have sparked protests against racial injustice across the country.
Shedrick also mentioned the “Star-Spangled Banner” having a “rough background to it” when discussing his decision to kneel. He encouraged people to look into the full lyrics of the song, which some historians and experts say has racist lines, rather than just the part played at sporting events.
Francis Scott Key, the author of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” was a slave-owning lawyer who at times during his life fought against the abolitionist movement. Other times, he offered his legal services to help African-Americans fighting for their freedom.
When digging into the history of the national anthem, as Shedrick suggests, it adds a more complicated legacy to the song played at UVa home sporting events.
While players like Shedrick kneeled Tuesday, others decided to stand. Huff was among the players who stood.
“Me, personally, I didn’t choose to because that’s just what I wanted to do, I wanted to stand, but I feel like guys have every right to kneel and the message that they wanted to get across is one that we all support,” Huff said. “Obviously that message is just protesting against injustice.”
The visual of some players and coaches standing with others kneeling might cause fans to wonder if the team is divided, but Huff and Shedrick say that’s not an accurate assessment. Both players emphasized that they support each other, regardless of the decision they make during the anthem.
That support is a key reason why the group decided to line up differently for Tuesday’s playing of the anthem. While views of each player may differ, the group supports the decisions of their teammates when it comes to expressing their beliefs. They wanted to emphasize that by standing next to each other Tuesday.
“The guys that stand, they’re with us 100%,” Shedrick said. “The guys that kneel, we’re with the guys that stand 100%. We’re all very unified in what we do, and we all support each other.”